By Jason Hopkins | Energy Investigator
President Donald Trump is set to announce a new policy that will allow ethanol blended gasoline to be sold year-round, adhering to a request from the nation’s corn industry.
Trump is expected to announce the policy change during a campaign event near Council Bluffs, Iowa, on Oct. 9, according to sources with Bloomberg. The move is considered a major win for America’s “Corn Belt,” where the ethanol industry is big business and ethanol blended gasoline drives demand for their product.
The policy in question pertains to gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol, or E15. The fuel is restricted during the summer months as federal vapor-pressure requirements block its sale where smog can be a problem. Midwestern farms and politicians have long sought this restriction — which lasts from June 1 to Sept. 15 — to be lifted.
As Trump braces for potentially high Democratic turnout during the midterm elections, nixing the restriction could be a boon for Iowa Republicans in heated election battles. Gov. Kim Reynolds and Rep. David Young are two Iowa Republicans, for example, facing tough re-elections. The president’s upcoming announcement on Tuesday will be a part of a campaign event on behalf of Young. The president will then hold a campaign rally later that day at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs. (RELATED: New EPA Chief Will Continue Scott Pruitt’s War With The Corn Lobby)
“If you look at where he’s making the announcement — in Iowa, the largest ethanol-producing state in the United States — it sends a very clear message that he is behind the American farmer, he is behind our renewable fuels and he is ready to make it happen,” Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst said about Trump’s expected announcement. “He’s fulfilling his promise, and I appreciate him for doing that.”
The decision to lift the E15 restriction demonstrates the fine line the president has to walk between the corn and oil industries — two major Trump constituencies who oppose each other on the ethanol mandate issue. Oil refineries argue ethanol mandates make their products more expensive and are putting them out of business. Corn growers, on the other hand, want the mandates in place to keep demand for the product higher.
Big corn demonstrated its clout when Ernst and GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa openly criticized former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt — a Trump appointee — for his loose granting of mandate waivers and his proposal to roll back ethanol requirements altogether. Pruitt and the EPA eventually stopped pursuing such reforms.
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The E15 policy change could take months to go into effect. Oil interests are likely to take the issues to court, prolonging its implementation.
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